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Traveler’s Schizophrenia

Amy Dewitt

n: a temporary nomadic disorder with symptoms ranging from: severe irritability and uncontrolled outpourings of internal voice; to: withdrawal into self, emotional instability, and detachment from reality

Free climbingI am a laidback traveler.  I shy away from itineraries and large groups.  I love spending the moment in the moment instead of reflecting on the moment that just passed and then regretting.  Flexibility is crucial, positive attitude a must, and I take several leaps and bounds outside of all established comfort zones just to try something new.  I travel under the wings of the main concepts of the Confucian communication model, searching for reciprocity always with gratitude to offer in return, avoiding confrontation and aggression, and ready to learn.  I want to deserve the gifts of culture; I want to be a dialectical traveler.  That does not make my mode of travel a cut above any other form; rather it is a sieving process for all potential travel companions to go through before committing to traveling with me.  I may have forgotten to mention the word “ideally”: for the betterment of the individual, it would ideally weed out all travelers that do not share the same sentiments.  It does not.  As a result, I have diagnosed myself with a very serious case of Wintrob’s “disadaptation syndrome,” illustrated in Eric Haanstad’s meditation on his fieldwork on Thailand, The Other City of Angels: Ethnography with the Bangkok Police; this combination of stress, fear, and feelings of incompetence that I like to call “traveler’s schizophrenia.”

Youngsters in India“I am quiet but happy,” I claimed, “I’m just trying to soak in
India.”  Those were the only words I could force out of my pursed lips to the ears of my comrade, left to take the brunt of my behavior.  The rest of the travel companions were a collection of a Semester at Sea trip that just so happened to share the travel sense that sends me reeling into my diagnosed symptoms when out in the foreign world.  There was miscommunication on top of miscommunication.  The negativity was too heavy to carry, and there is never an approved point and time to drop off the load.  My fellow travelers in India were wearing a foggy lens concerned with the next transmission.  They saw themselves as the source of knowledge and were ready to pass it on.  When the receiver would not receive, then came the negativity passed on to the unsuspecting Confucian modeler.  It was an intrusion into this land as far as I was concerned.

Prognosis:  I will continue to cross paths with others that do not share the same whimsical mentality that I carry when traveling.  Instead of extending such whimsy to a positive, healthy interaction, I allow the noise to get in the way of intercultural communication and
Eating with handsunderstanding.  The noise is the most severe symptom of traveler’s schizophrenia; sinking into internal seclusion and irritability is a resignation of cultural relativism.  I become “disadapted” and depersonalized “left to blindly inhabit secret personal worlds of discomfort and alienation.”  But as Haanstad continues to discover, “depersonalizing” oneself can be useful.  I learned a lot about Amy the Traveler while in IndiaIntra-culturally, I was not functioning; therefore, inter-culturally I was mute to the communication of an intricate land and people.  India tried haggling its gifts with me, but I turned down much more than just beggars and peddlers; I sold myself short on the entire package.

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